Despite ADA regulations regarding accessibility of public buildings, people with disabilities often face barriers to accessing healthcare that are not addressed by the law, including a lack of appropriate staff training and accessible equipment. A report in Friday’s Boston Globe indicates that two nationally known, Harvard-affiliated area hospitals – Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital – will be spending millions of dollars over the next several years to make their services more accessible to people with disabilities.
Disability activists worked with Greater Boston Legal Services and the Boston Center for Independent Living to inform hospital leadership of the barriers patients were facing in accessing care. These included patients who could not be weighed (because there were no scales that could accommodate a wheelchair), making it difficult for their chemotherapy or other drugs to be properly dosed; patients who were unable to receive needed mammograms; and patients who were asked by hospital staff if they were “sure” they couldn’t walk or who were branded as uncooperative because of their disabilities.
Under a new agreement between the hospitals and the advocacy groups, the hospitals will survey and remove physical/architectural barriers to care, purchase accessible medical devices and equipment (including mammography equipment), review and modify hospital policies, provide appropriate training to staff. The hospitals must regularly report to patients and their advocates on the progress they are making. According to the Globe, advocates hope that the changes to be made at these facilities will serve as an example for hospitals across the country.
For more on the topic of disabilities and access to care, check out some of the following resources (and feel free to leave links to more in the comments):